Tech's Defense Tames Clemson With Two TD's
Moore, Hokies crack whip on Tigers with big plays late in 31-11 victory.
September 23, 1999

by Jimmy Robertson
Editor, Hokie Huddler

For 55 minutes, the Clemson Tigers roamed around the zoo known as Lane Stadium, threatening to chow down on the eighth-ranked team in the country.

But in the final five minutes, it was Tech's defense that went on the feeding frenzy.

Buoyed by a zany sellout crowd and the thoughts of showing their stuff on national television on a Thursday night, Tech's defense came up with two major plays both touchdowns to help the Hokies cage the Tigers 31-11 in front of 51,907 fans at Lane Stadium.

Ike Charlton's 34-yard interception return for a score and Corey Moore's fumble return for a touchdown just 38 seconds apart marked the end for a spirited Clemson crowd as Tech's defense delivered a message to those watching on ESPN.

"When the lights are on, big-time players step it up," Moore said. "If you're going to talk it, you better walk it."

On this night, Tech walked it. But it wasn't easy.

Thanks in large part to Clemson coach Tommy Bowden's shenanigans, the Tigers sliced a 14-0 Tech lead to 14-11 in the fourth quarter. Bowden, a master of trick plays, had his team line up to kick a field goal from the Tech 9 with 11:31 left in the game.

But it turned out to be a fake and kicker Tony Lazzara threw a perfect pass to reserve fullback Vince Ciurciu for a 9-yard score. Clemson quarterback Brandon Streeter then found Jason LeMay for the two-point conversion to cut Tech's lead to three.

"Hey, that's a Bowden for you," Moore said. "Give those guys a lot of credit. They're well-coached. They slipped that trick play in on us."

But the Hokies bounced back. Led by redshirt freshman quarterback Michael Vick, who struggled immensely for most of the night, the Hokies drove down the field. Tech converted three times on third down, including a 21-yard pass from Vick to tight end Derek Carter on third-and-6. The drive culminated in a 47-yard field goal by Shayne Graham with five minutes left to make the score 17-11.

And then Tech's defense took over. On Clemson's next possession, Streeter fired a pass that was picked off by Charlton and the redshirt junior returned it for the score.

"We had a short little underneath route to Rod Garner called," Bowden said. "It's a good little safe throw. If he gets it you're going to get five or six and fall down.

"He's been catching the ball good. Brandon was throwing pretty good. The guy just cut in front and intercepted it. Really, that errant pass in the last five minutes cost us."

Things didn't get much better for the Tigers on their next possession. Forced to throw, Streeter tried to go to the air against Tech's pass rush. But four plays after the interception, Moore who spent most of the night camped in the Clemson backfield once again hit Streeter and caused a fumble. He then got up, picked up the ball and ran it 32 yards into the end zone for the score with 2:31 left.

And in doing so, he sacked any chance Clemson had for an upset.

"I told coach Foster to let us play straight up right there when it was getting close to crunch time and that I was going to take it over," Moore said. "I had to take it upon myself. I didn't want to disappoint.

"I tell you this, it ain't braggin' if you can back it up and I think our defense came to play tonight."

Moore and his defensive mates picked up the slack for a Tech offense plagued by turnovers. Coming off an ankle injury which caused him to miss the second half of the James Madison game and the entire Alabama-Birmingham game, Vick played like the inexperienced freshman he is.

The youngster threw three interceptions on the night, including two to Clemson cornerback Robert Carswell. Making matters worse, all three interceptions came inside the Clemson 40 as Tech squandered several scoring opportunities.

"I wouldn't say I was rusty," Vick said. "I came out at first and played pretty well. But I need to make better decisions. I tried to do too much."

Vick, though, played well in spurts, leading the Hokies on two scoring drives in the first half. Much like last season's game against Clemson, Tech wasted little time in getting started.

The Hokies jumped out to a 7-0 lead with 1:12 left in the first quarter on a 3-yard touchdown run by tailback Shyrone Stith and Vick completed all three of his pass attempts for 42 yards on the 11-play, 80-yard drive.

And after holding Clemson to three-and-out on the Tigers' next possession, the Hokies went back to work. With the ball on their own 45, Vick rushed up the middle 31 yards to the Clemson 24.

On the next play, reserve tailback André Kendrick ran untouched through a gaping hole up the middle into the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown run with 14:12 left in the half. The ensuing extra point gave Tech a 14-0 lead.

Clemson's lone score in the first half came on a 27-yard field goal by kicker Chris Campbell the first of his career. The Tigers had managed to drive to the Tech 10, but the drive stalled forcing Clemson to settle for the field goal.

Clemson went into halftime fortunate to be down 11 because Tech wasted several scoring opportunities in the first half. On one drive, Stith fumbled the ball at the Clemson 27, spoiling a great opportunity for the Hokies.

And then right before halftime, Tech had the ball at the Clemson 37 with under a minute to go. But Carswell picked off a Vick pass, ending another Hokie threat.

Yet the Tigers couldn't take advantage. They scored their 11 points off two of Tech's turnovers, but failed to capitalize on the other three because of the play of Tech's defense.

"I think we sent a big statement out tonight," Moore said. "We've got to get better on both sides of the ball.

"We've got something special here. We've just got to take it one game at a time."